Chronicles of Chic: Fashion Week’s new kids on the block

By IAfrica
In South Africa
Mar 9th, 2014
0 Comments
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This season, far from the usual craze for big shows à la Chanel in Paris or Tommy Hilfiger in NYC (two brands known for staging their shows in some extraordinary set; this year again, they didn’t disappoint), all eyes were focused on global fashion’s new kids on the block. Nicolas Ghesquière at Louis Vuitton, the dauntless Jeremy Scott for Moschino or Julien Dossena for Paco Rabanne, all had to prove their talent as they took the reins of renowned fashion houses.

Not since Raf Simons joined Dior in April 2012 did the fashion cognoscenti await a collection with such anticipation and impatience AS the one designed by Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton. Held at the Cour Carrée du Louvre in Paris (the monarchs’ palace until Louis XIV preferred Versailles and used the Louvre as his royal collection’s showcase), the range was anything but frail and hesitant. The designer, who reshaped (both in form and in numbers) Balenciaga during his fifteen years at the house’s helm before Alexander Wang moved in, was appointed last November as Louis Vuitton’s new creative director.

Bravely wafting away from Marc Jacobs’ celebrated style, Ghesquière brought under the white marquee humility, vigor and novelty with his first collection for the French house. There were cropped ski jumpers and slightly longer-than-mini dresses in neutral tones, empire lines, juxtaposition of leather and wool, zips to give a modern twist to a woollen legging or a cowl neck cardigan, the bags that will be (or already are) decisively commercial (think a mini trunk bag and a revisited Speedy with apparent stitching in a geometrical pattern); it had a je-ne-sais-quoi flirting with history, mainly the sixties, seventies and eighties, without ever being made heavy by it. It was exciting and precise, refreshing and, historical references aside, très new.

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Photo: Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton.

Also in Paris, following Marco Zanini’s move from Rochas to Schiaparelli, Italian Alessandro Del’Acqua presented his first collection for the company founded in 1925 by Marcel Rochas and owned by American consumer goods company Procter & Gamble. (Rochas closed its fashion division in 2006, only to revive it again two years later.) Zanini, who earlier in life worked as an assistant to Donatella Versace, brought back playful glamour, chic eccentricities and fantastic margins. Del’Acqua, who has been running his own label, No 21, since 2010, had a tough task in keeping up with Zanini’s good work: alas, his first collection seemed lost in translation, with volumes and proportions more overwhelming than flattering. The models also wore gloves, the top flapping on the wrist, looking pretty much like dishwashing-gloves, the yellow rubber ones. It seemed that the models had piled up clothes in prep for cold winters or that they simply didn’t have time to change properly and decided to walk the runaway with the whole collection on the shoulders; a little deconstruction would have helped.

Yiqing Yin’s creations are usually a lesson in pleats and volumes; she plays with fabrics to design aerial silhouettes that seem not to follow any particular pattern or construction. For her first steps as the creative director for Leonard Paris, Yin’s signature – sensibly uncontrolled shapes and un-tailored silhouettes – is still visible. But this time, it is more subtle and more fitted; it is as if, stuck between the walls of Leonard’s history (the house first collection was launched in 1958), Yin found her direction, a purpose and a modernity that could sometimes be lost in her own eponymous line. The draped capes, the combination of fabrics and proportions, the layered appliqués, created an incredibly feminine and contemporary ensemble.

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Photo: Yiqing Yin for Leonard.

Showing at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts (National School of Fine Arts), in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, thirty-year old Julien Dossena designed a first range for Paco Rabanne that was modern and even slightly futuristic; it definitely worked for today’s woman. Paco Rabanne, the original designer, who was born in 1934 in Spain, studied architecture before moving into fashion design (ironically, he first created and sold fashion accessories to finance his architectural studies); structural design usually shines through the collections (think the famous armored dress made of little square plates fixed together with chainmail) and the brand’s ethos is one of “pure lines.”

I remember listening to an interview of Paco Rabanne at the end of the nineties, where he explained how he constructed, literally, garments: the hammered metal, the use of chains, Plexiglas, plastic put together like sculptures. Although it gave the brand a unique and very recognisable identity, it made it difficult to evolve, so strong was the image of the metallic dress in people’s minds. Dossena managed to extract this uniqueness and apply it back on his collection in light touches. He lightened the structure, trimmed the chains and thinned the composition so that the silhouettes could breathe again with a welcome youth. It was enough to remind us of the brand’s heritage without being overwhelming.

In Milan, at the house of Moschino, Jeremy Scott, following Rossella Jardini’s departure as she became a consultant for Missoni, presented a collection that bore both his signature and his wit; remember Andy Warhol’s 1962 colourful work of art 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans that launched Pop Art and brought Campbell’s soups’ glam factor to sky levels? Scott transformed, not without vision and a serious dose of third-degree humour, McDonald’s golden arches into pop culture and fashion new desiderata. It was bold and bright (in cherry red, McDonald’s yellow, cow prints, chunks of gold and black), crisp and utterly fun. It seemed that Scott used this collection as a playground, a place to let his unbridled imagination run free. The unbearable lightness of being a ‘debutant’ again was undeniably palpable.

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Photo: Jeremy Scott for Moschino.

Jason Wu (famous for being Michelle Obama’s fashion darling, and the designer behind two of her inaugural dresses) showed his first collection for Hugo Boss during New York Fashion Week; he looked at the house archives and its history of men’s tailoring to draw a collection that had both his minimalist yet feminine touch (flannel suits, the skirt elegantly floating on the forelegs, ankle-long coats belted at the waist in neutral tones, long cashmere knits) and the brand’s Germanic and almost military attitude. The models had a distant air of post-war nurses, doctor’s bags firmly on hand. It is interesting to see how Wu, who is usually not inclined toward provocation – apart from his Spring/Summer 2013 collection, an homage to Helmut Newton – found in Hugo Boss his alter ego house and a perfect home for his precise creativity.

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Photo: Jason Wu for Hugo Boss.

In the last few years, designers have been moving in and out of fashion houses like replaceable commodities. When it’s a fit, it gives the brands a way to inject energy, creativity and new kind of lightness to the collections. This season, this new force was definitely rejuvenating: Ghesquière will probably mark the future of Louis Vuitton the same way Jacobs did, with panache and distinction. Dossena should help Rabanne regain its stripes as a desirable and modern ready-to-wear brand while Jason Wu works at bringing more softness and newness in Hugo Boss’ usual conservatism. Jeremy Scott, Yiqing Yin and Del’Acqua still have to pass the test of time, and survive the next round of fashion’s game of musical chairs. DM

Main photo: Louis Vuitton, Moschino, Channel, Leonard, Hugo Boss.


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